Evidence detailed in Ohio Craigslist murder trial

by THOMAS J. SHEERAN Associated Press Published:

(AP) — The prosecution has outlined motives of robbery and identity theft in Ohio attacks two years ago that killed three men and wounded a fourth lured by phony Craigslist job offers.

The alleged triggerman, 53-year-old defendant Richard Beasley of Akron, who has back problems, slumped in his wheelchair and didn’t turn to look as the evidence was detailed Feb. 25 by prosecutor Emily Pelphrey at the Summit County Commons Pleas Court.

Beasley’s attorney, James Burdon, told the jury there isn’t enough evidence to prove his client committed the crimes. He says the defense will try to show a survivor attacked Beasley first, not the other way around.

Jury selection was completed on its fourth day and opening statements were presented.

Beasley could face the death penalty if convicted, and prosecutors have signaled that is their goal. His teenage co-defendant, Brogan Rafferty of Stow, has been convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Rafferty, too young at the time of the crimes to be eligible for the death penalty, has agreed to testify against Beasley. It was unclear whether his testimony could lead to a sentence reduction.

At his sentencing, Rafferty said the crimes were horrible but he didn’t recognize any chance to stop the killings. Rafferty said he feared Beasley would kill him and his family members if he tipped off police.

Questions to prospective jurors focused on the length of the trial, pre-trial publicity and views of the death penalty.

Judge Lynne Callahan repeatedly asked prospective jurors who expressed qualms about the death penalty whether they could put aside those sentiments and follow the law when deliberating. If Beasley is convicted, the same jury would hear evidence on whether to recommend that the judge impose the death sentence.

Any sentencing proceeding likely would begin April 8, the judge said.

Prosecutors say the victims, all down in their luck and with few family ties that might highlight their disappearance, were lured with phony offers of southeast Ohio farmhand jobs on Craigslist.

The slain men were Ralph Geiger, 56, of Akron; David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Va.; and Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon. The lone survivor, Scott Davis, was shot in the arm, knocked the weapon aside and fled into the woods. Davis, of South Carolina, was looking to move closer to his family in the Canton area.

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